The Yumi Stynes Furor

They Just Got It In For Ya

Dear Yumi Stynes,

I don’t really know you at all, in fact I didn’t even know of our existence until this recent fracas. Colour me ignorant, I’m not a big watcher of the idiot box unless it’s the news; and that’s kind of how I glommed on to the fact that you said a few things that you regret and have since apologised for – twice – and you’re still getting hostile notes and threats from an angered public. I even understand that you have been in touch with the ADF person who you implied was bad in bed and he’s forgiven you, so I’m not really writing to you about that.

I’m writing to you more for the fact that you’re probably thinking “why me? why have they got it so in for me?”

I mean, let’s face it, Kyle Sandilands has said much more hostile, aggravating, obnoxious things than about conjectures about people’s sexual prowess (or the absence thereof) – and yes, he too has had sponsors walk away from him.

The short answer I have for you is that no matter how Australian you might feel, having been born and raised here, when the stakes matter the most your half Japanese ancestry singles you out as Australia’s favourtie object of hatred and scorn. I know this might strike you as odd and even counter to the ideological framework that an upbringing in multicultural Australia might have provided for you, but this is just the simple truth of it.

In my experience, the Australia can cope with the black fella and the wog and the Jew and the chink and the Vietnam boatperson and perhaps even a burqua-clad muslim doing ‘alright’ in our society, unfortunately the Japanese remain the unforgiven. This is ever so true in the history of this nation. If you were taught that it was the Chinese during the gold rush that brought about the declaration at the Eureka Stockade that Australia should stay white, then you are wrong. It was in fact the vast number of Japanese divers and crew working in the pearl diving business at the end of the 19th century up at the top end that prompted the actual implementation of the was the fear of the Japanese.

This policy was defended vigorously at the Paris Peace Conference by Billy Hughes, as he fought to keep a line about universal equality of mankind kept out of ay declaration for the Treaty of Versaille after World War I. Of course World War II didn’t help either, in cementing the deep-seated (and officially sanctioned) hatred and dislike of the Japanese. I guess things like Changi POW camp didn’t help either because Australians delight in telling the injustices that befell “their people” at Changi as if it were an isolated event in the history of mankind. “Brutal,” they say. When I’ve pointed them in the direction of brutalities carried out by the allies in World War II, they’ve told me invariably the Japanese deserved it. No two way street there.

It’s been a good 70 years since World War II, but the passion invested on hating on the Japanese is pretty intense out there. 70 years is a long time. It’s longer than the length of time between the US Civil War and World War I; but the heat is still out there. You sure as heck don’t hear the same kinds of things about Koreans or Malaysians or Vietnamese or Indonesians in East Timor, even though Australians went to some kind of war with them as well since the time they fought the Japanese. We don’t even get the same level of visceral dislike about the Iraqis with whom we were so recently at war, or the Afghans with whom we are still at war. Bruce Ruxton used to famously bang on about the Japanese being a ‘treacherous race’. (Thanks Bruce, I hope your fresh grave gives you all the comfort you need.)

Even from my own experience of growing up in Australia during the 1980s when multiculturalism was actively promoted, I would have to say that being Japanese was a separate kettle of prejudicial fish. That people would say quite openly they could handle black fellas, Wogs, Jews, Chinks and Lebs, they drew the line at the Japs. Indeed, while there were always pockets of places welcoming the Japanese, for the better part of the Twentieth Century the Japanese were the objects of scorn, ridicule, fear and hatred; which, incidentally are the very four things being directed at your way right now as you are vilified.

It continues even today. When you read the comments on news sites to do with whaling, one comes to understand that most of that passionate defense of the whale is the flipside of having a need to vilify the Japanese; it helps to have a justification as to why they are allowed to keep vilifying the Japanese.  “Oh look,” they seem to say “the Japanese are all whalers. I like whales. All Japanese are my enemies!” Sea Shepherd supporters have a disgusting way of tucking their racism behind a vocal support for an extremist group. And the Australian government never really says anything to dissuade its own public of these kinds of ugly sentiments because, well, votes are nice to have in politics. If the  majority get such a kick out of Japan-bashing, why take it away from them?

I’m afraid this is the general level of cultural understanding that is out there in the Australian public of Japan. Do not be deceived by the inroads made by luminaries such as Tetsuya or Japanese cuisine in general; or even the kids who are really into anime and Pokemon. The reality is, when it comes to prejudice, the Japanese have a special place in the hearts of prejudicial Australians. And the only way to face this is with as much steel as you can muster and tell them they are the inadequate, the insufficient, the improper, the ugly, and the under-developed.

As somebody who is Japanese by blood, but Australian by nationality, I cannot begin to express my deep empathy for your situation right now. I do not even know if you feel any pride or affinity for your heritage seeing that you were born here and grew up here (and I won’t conjecture or presume to know); But in case you were wondering why the baying public were going after you much harder than Kyle Sandilands or George Negus, well, it’s because you are by birth eminently hate-able to the wider, prejudiced parts of the Australian public. Especially the types who think the ADF can do no wrong. Deep down, they don’t like you because you’re half Japanese. God forbid if you were fully Japanese, they’ll demand a Senate inquiry into the media for putting you on screen.

It’s a shame there’s not much of a choice in it for you. It would be one thing to be properly criticised, only for the things you did. The ugly truth is that you are being criticised for being who you are for which you had no choice. The hypocrisy of the media going on about feigning surprise as if this is an exceptional case is breathtaking. I will quote something here from the article linked above:

Associate Professor Scott McQuire, from the University of Melbourne’s school of Culture and Communication, said online forums such as Twitter and Facebook encouraged participation in public debate from a broad range of people with differing views.

“If you spend a lot of time online you see there is a group of people who will have particular political diatribes, a group of people who will respond in offensive manners and very dismissive manners,” Associate Professor McQuire said.

“But there are other people who engage in much more thoughtful, compassionate, reasoned debates at times. We don’t want to throw that bit out because of the fear that can come around through this kind of amplified extremities.

“The way in which these things comes to people’s attention is through mainstream media. One of the responsibilities of the media is to think about what parts of the debate we fan.”

That, is a crock of shit. It merely tells you the people have the means to express their fucked up opinions. The fact of the matter is, these views are out there, in our very own community, harboured by people who can fire them off like a drive by shooting. All you’ve done is given them an opening, a reason to express these ugly, fucked up opinions of absolute no merit.

The negative things the public are saying to you and about you are unwarranted, evil, nasty, small-minded and wrong. So while I don’t know you from a bar of soap, and am merely a blogger in the wilderness of idiotic discourse, I just wanted to express my support for you, and solidarity with you, as is warranted.

Yours Faithfully,


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